Beethoven, the Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words

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Excerpt BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is widely considered to be one of the pre-eminent classical music figures of the Western world. This German musical genius created numerous works that are firmly entrenched in the repertoire. Except for a weakness in composing vocal and operatic music (to which he himself admitted, notwithstanding a few vocal works like the opera "Fidelio" and the song "Adelaide,"), Beethoven had complete mastery of the artform. He left his stamp in 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 10 violin sonatas, 32 piano sonatas, numerous string quartets and dozens of other key works. Many of his works are ingeniously imaginative and innovative, such as his 3rd symphony (the "Eroica"), his 9th Violin Sonata (the "Kreutzer"), his "Waldstein" piano sonata, his 4th and 5th piano concertos, or his "Grosse Fugue" for string quartet. (Of course, each of Beethoven's works adds its own unique detail to Beethoven's grand musical paradigm.) It is difficult to sum up briefly what his musical works represent or symbolize, since taken together they encompass a vast system of thought. Generally, however, those who apprehend his music sense that it reflects their own personal yearnings and sufferings. It egoistically, and always intelligently, "discusses" with its listener his or her feelings in the wake of personal failure and personal triumph, from the lowest depths of despair to the highest heights of happy or triumphant fulfillment. In his music, he represents the feelings felt by those attempting to achieve their goals within their societies, whether they are competing for love, status, money, power, mates and/or any other things individuals feel naturally inclined to attempt to acquire. In a thematic sense, Beethoven does not promote anarchist ideas. The listener cannot, in listening to Beethoven's music, apprehend ideas which, if applied, would compromise the welfare of his society. The music is thus "civically responsible," as is the music of Bach or Mozart. For Beethoven, the society exists as a bulwark with which the individual must function in harmony, or at least not function such as to harm or destroy it. And, should the society marginalize or hurt the individual, as it often does, the individual must, according to Beethoven, humbly accept this, never considering the alternative act of attempting to harm or destroy the society in the wake of his or her personal frustrations. But, thanks to Beethoven, such an individual is provided with the means to sooth his or her misery in the wake of feeling "hurt" at the hands of society. The means is this music and the euphoric pleasure that it can provide to minds possessing the psycho-intellectual "wiring" needed to apprehend it. Some post-World-War-II composers, such as the late, LSD-using John Cage, reject the music of Beethoven because of its predominant reliance on "beauty" as way of communicating idealized concepts. Also, since the music intimately reflects the cravings and thought-processes of the natural human mind, which in numerous ways is emotionally and intellectually irrational, the music may itself be consequently irrational....
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